‘Salt Sugar Fat’ unveils food industry’s efforts to keep you hooked on junk


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After a recent trip to the grocery store, I sat down with a package of Oreos. I’ll have just one or two, I told myself. Then maybe one more. Before I knew it, an entire sleeve had disappeared. And thanks to my recent reading material, I knew why.

Published in 2013, “Salt Sugar Fat” takes a deep dive into the commercial food industry and its far-reaching, negative effects on consumers. Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Michael Moss leaves no stone unturned in examining the role the food giants play in our lives, from their inescapable marketing messages to rising obesity rates and health problems. 

Moss catalogues decades of efforts by such industry leaders as General Mills, Phillip Morris and Coke to make their product not just appealing, but also addictive to consumers. The goal is the “bliss point”: that magical combination of a product’s, salt, sugar and fat that makes the consumer keep eating and eating and eating. Hence, that whole row of Oreos.

Although there is plenty of finger-pointing to go around where nutritionally deficient food products are concerned, Moss does not paint a completely bleak picture of the industry. Moss highlights individual food executives who for years struggled with the moral and ethical implications of what they were doing. He also acknowledges recent industry efforts (led by Kraft) to reformulate popular food products in healthier ways that will still resonate with consumers.

In its entirety, “Salt Sugar Fat” offers a compelling look at the products we live with every day. Moss knows how to tell a story well, but readers may be distracted by the book’s sloppy editing. Some points are needlessly repeated three and four times, as if the book was chopped up into excerpts for magazines and then put back together without a final read-through. 

Regardless of your food industry knowledge or eating habits, “Salt Sugar Fat” is sure to be an educational, informative read. Fair warning: After reading it, you may never want to pick up some of your favorite food products again.